Ropecon acquisitions (+ diceless)

7 August, 2011 at 9:28 pm (Nopaton, roleplaying-games, Ropecon)

So, Ropecon is done. I played one game of D&D 3,2 (rough estimation), which was okay since the sights along the railroad track were nice, and game mastered one game of Dogs and one Amber throne war. Dogs was mediocre, Amber went well, but I picked up no particular lessons from either. A few more contacts, though.

For Ropecon game masters there is GM loot, from which I picked up Tähti (Star would be the English translation), a game about maoist teenage mutant girl band in near future Finland, designed by Mike Pohjola. It is basically freeform with some fortune cookies thrown in for good measure and inspiration. The people one should play in the game are quite alien to me, as is the background of girl bands. There is some advice, but not enough to get me interested. So not my game. If anyone local wants to GM it, I’m giving it away. Or, if there’s no takers, I’m giving it away at some con (Tracon, maybe) to someone interested in GMing it. If there’s still no takers, well, bookcrossing plus some convention ought to do the trick.

I also bought Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World a bit after the con, when the Arkenstone people were able to actually sell games, and not only sandwiches. (It is somewhat complicated.) From simple read-through it is a good game, which does most of the things I like about Burning Wheel, but adds useful rules for game mastering and is lighter on rules that involve players. The game mastering tools should be highly applicable to traditional games that do not focus on combat, or only on combat, and where there is not a ready storyline to follow. World of darkness, Amber, Burning Wheel, maybe Solar system, that sort of stuff. I posted a bit about applying it to Amber on the AW message boards.

Also worth a read: Baker’s post on concentric game design.

And for the Finnish audience: New version of nopaton. Sekä laajempi että yksinkertaisempi kuin edellinen.

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Diceless in Finnish and other unfinished projects

26 July, 2011 at 11:40 am (Amber, dungeon crawling, game design, Ropecon, Solar system) (, , )

I developed the ideas of previous post a bit, cleaned them up, and wrote them down in Finnish. It is not done yet. It is free of copyright, so do whatever you will with or to it. Here’s the link: diceless

WordPress does not allow uploading .tex or .txt files, so if you want the .tex source for the PDF, feel free to ask. You can then recreate the PDF with LaTeX and easily modify it, change the appearance, remove the aesthetically unpleasing hyperlinks, or whatever you want to.

I also have two other PDFs that may have content of interest. I have not really worked on them for a while, and if I do so, it will include rewriting and in case of the old school project redesign from scratch. The projects are scifi material for Solar System (in Finnish) and yet another attempt at old school system (in English). Links: huomisenvarjot and OSrpg. A fair warning: The writing and presentation are horrible. These are more first drafts than anything else.

As previously, the .tex and .bib (bibliography) files are available on request.

Now I’m off to meet relatives and then to Ropecon, where I’m running one throne war of Amber diceless and one town of Dogs. Back online after a bit more than a week.

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Ropecon 09: briefly on zombies and cinema

10 September, 2009 at 7:51 am (actual play, Ropecon) (, , , )

Tommi Horttana, brother of a friend of a friend whom I had not met before, wanted to play some forgish games and another friend of a friend did not know how they were different from most roleplaying games. I prepared to create some horrible abomination on the fly, but luckily Sami Koponen of Efemeros fame happened to be nearby and the game he was playing in ended. So, we played some scenes of (the Finnish version of) Zombie Cinema.

The remarkable thing was my continued difficulty in playing games with shared narration and explicit scene framing. The others were pretty much pros or natural talents, it seemed. Small part of my poor performance is the heavy reliance on visual media (movies, TV) and the effects used therein, which I am not familiar with. The significant part is, I think, that though I can make scenes where something happens, I don’t have a feel for that something is supposed to be in this style of play. The good part is that now I have a new way of looking at storytelling.

I’ll be playing in a Burning Wheel campaign where I’ll try to make a dramatically interesting character. We are almost past the mechanical parts of character generation, so hammering beliefs and instincts is what remains. Just to not make things too easy for myself, I’ll try playing a religious character who is quite fervent about it and is not a sword-wielding maniac or overtly abrasive. This ought to be interesting.

Further, a bunch of us at Jyväskylä have been trying to make a short movie-like object. Success has thus far been mixed, but the parts I have found to be most enjoyable are the scripting/brainstorming sessions. They have also been the most challenging, which is appropriate. One lesson learned is to only include the relevant: Communicate something about a character or keep the viewers on track about what is happening, basically. (The other people make sure that inserting random bursts of action is not my problem.) Maybe this ties back in to playing a dramatically interesting character and to scene framing.

Note 1: Tommi Horttana is one of the designers of Lies and seductions, a free (as far as money is concerned) computer game for some non-open operating systems. It should be about relationships. I don’t play many computer games, but interested readers might want to take a look, as Horttana is quite smart as far as people go.

Note 2: Zombies.

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D&D, old and new (Ropecon 09)

5 September, 2009 at 2:18 pm (actual play, Ropecon) (, , , )

In Ropecon I played Fane of the poisoned prophecies as GM’d by mister Raggi. After the con I’ve played four sessions of 4e.

Minor spoilers regarding the Fane shall follow.

Both of the games were mediocre, but for different reasons. The Fane felt somewhat directionless; we entered the place, killed some stuff, discovered some healing herbs, moved on, encountered a Cthulhuan camel, and so on. There was a big secret that we did not uncover, though the clues were there. I’m not certain that figuring out the secret would actually have been useful. On the treasure side we did find the herbs and one shelf of books, but the value of either was dwarfed by the appetite of the disenchanter-camel. Overall, I think the game might have been better if we had had a concrete goal or reason for being there. A good resource hoard to search for, say, or something more personal. Also, second journey in would likely have been more meaningful.

On the system side, we had one combat that felt too long (the moon chamber). All of them did nicely evoke a sense of danger and the need to move on, which was, I think, the point.

Overall: The play itself was fun; interacting with the environment and guessing at the level of risks. The combat system is pretty incidental I’d go as far as to further simplify it or abstract it away, since what happens inside combat is not, at least for me, that interesting. Props to James for not naming the monsters. It does make them feel more sword and sorcerish, probably due to facing the unknown and otherwordly, and less like D&D fantasy (Dragonlance, Forgotten realms, …).

Yeah: Every character made it out alive, though two, including my fighter henchman, were unconscious.

As for the game of 4e, we had some fights, found some traces of drow conspiracy, had some fights, attacked some underground temple and were all killed. Verdict: 4e is far more deadly than old school D&D. Maybe our only healer being one-shotted during surprise round also was a contributing factor.

4e does not prohibit people from roleplaying; I don’t see any relevant differences when compared to 3rd edition. What is relevant, and what is striking in contrast to old D&D (which does not have much encouragement for roleplaying, either) is that modern D&D has combats that take awfully long time. I take it that people enjoy such combats, but I would rather be roleplaying. In addition, such awfully long combats create the illusory dichotomy between using rules and roleplaying, so harming much discourse on rpgs.

Our game would have been better if we had more players familiar with the rules. Right now there was insignificant amounts of fumbling and me and the GM keeping track of rules for other players. Roleplay was, as always, as meaningful as we made it.

Overall, I probably will be playing 4e (or 3rd edition) only when there are no other interesting games available. They are still preferable to almost all board and card games, though. Chess might be counterexample, if I bothered learning it properly.

So, mediocre games but for different reasons. Clearly different games, also, with similarities being in the name and some cosmetic stuff.

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Ropecon 09 – jää hiljaisuus

10 August, 2009 at 5:16 pm (actual play, Ropecon)

The first game I GM’ed at Ropecon was the Finnish scenario Jää hiljaisuus by Nordic, who is also knows as Risto Hietala, a famous name in the Finnish rpg scene (since I’ve heard of him). Players were Dare Talvitie (an excellent player), Riku, Tiina (who looked like a ferengi) and Jukka.

Spoilers ahead. The scenario will be very different if you first read this and only then play.

The story is that of four men being sent to a small research station, meaning essentially a storehouse, in the Arctic to get a few measurements and to bring said measuring equipment back for repairing and maintenance. The ship they are sent out from remains some 120 kilometers away (due to plot saying so and floating mountains of ice), while the men use a smaller vehicle. The vehicle gets burned during the night (the hours during which it is not the night are preciously few during early winter). There’s a number of events, like finding the frozen corpse of a seal, that will happen. Other than them, the scenario very much depends on the players doing something interesting, which basically amounts to arguing, trying to survive or fighting amongst themselves. There’s preciously few opportunities for the GM to do anything about their course of action, save for out-of-character prodding.

At some point during the first day GM randomly assigns for notes to the players without looking at them. One tells the character in question burned the boat, one that the character did not think he did it and two that the character did not do it.

Oh, yeah, the characters. All of them have secrets of some sort and all know the secret of one other character. The secrets are not really devastating enough to justify burning the boat, which is a major design flaw. Also, one character is married but it does not read on the information to be given to that player and that lack is easy to miss as GM (I did, but it went fine by sheer luck).

As for the actual play, I took a pretty strong lead at the beginning, explaining how things are done and not really asking if they did something unstandard; this is something of a requirement, as the scenario assumes the boat gets burned and communications with it.

The players certainly played their characters to hilt: One being sensible, one pretending to be sensible, one trying to attract aliens to pick him up, using whatever means he had available (the scenario did not mention them at all, so I sort of wonder why the player fixated on aliens) and another character getting caught up in the act, assuming everyone else an alien. In the end  the boat-burner more-or-less killed those who did not do so to each other, afterwards wandering into the icy wastes only to perish quietly, freezing to death.

Overall, I did not find the scenario text to be helpful. I could have improvised equivalent content and it lacked details that would have been useful (a map of the cabin, say, or more detail on the few discoveries made in the icy fields). One lesson learned was that should I run a ready-made adventure ever again, I should look at it from the point of view of all players, considering the material they are given. Obvious, I know, but not something I even thought of before running the scenario.

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Ropecon 2009 – lecture notes

4 August, 2009 at 7:17 pm (academic rpg theory, Ropecon) (, , , )

This year’s Ropecon happened over the weekend and thereby is done. In this post I’ll give more or less general impressions on things that were not roleplaying games. Descriptions of gaming shall come later. I hope I have time for them with the Jyväskylä Summer school starting tomorrow.

On the general socialisation and contact-making side I managed to talk with all but one of the people whom I wanted to meet (that one being a childhood friend who had hurt his ankle and was not very active due to that). I acquired new contacts, including James Edward Raggi IV, and was surprised by J. Tuomas Harviainen having heard my name. Evidently I know random people by name and random people know me by name, yet I still manage to avoid all insider groups. Anyway: I was on social overdrive for the entire game, talking to random people I did not know about random subjects. I’m still exhausted by it. Serves me well. Next year I’ll take a day off after Ropecon so as to recuperate a bit.

I listened and took notes of three lectures: Rituals and roleplaying by mister Harviainen, Arabic mythology by someone and Introduction to academic roleplaying theory by Ludosofy. I have the notes and interested locals can take a look, though I may be necessary for interpreting them.

Rituals and roleplaying was certainly a useful lecture, clarifying the subject a fair deal. All mistakes and misconceptions are naturally mine, as I’m writing from lecture notes and memory; I am at least missing some subtle distinctions. Harviainen started with a primer on ritual theory, explaining four roughly different classes of rituals (religious/magical, interaction such as the way in which you greet someone, animal such as mating rituals and finally compulsions such as washing one’s hands dozens of times consecutively), what humans get out of them (predictability and safety, as well as additional value) and then showing ties to play. Namely, Huizinga and Winnicott (of whom I know nothing about) have equated ritual and play, while lusory attitude is one form of additional value one can get out of rituals. Predictability means easier understanding through shared framework and rules (which also make sanctions possible); one way this relates to rules in roleplaying games is obvious. Harviainen also noted that rituals always have a cost (they restrict what one can do; no guns in a boxing match, to use the standard example) and hence people expect something out of them. Different people may and do expect different things, which may cause problems (compare: creative agendae in Forge theory). Rituals, as mentioned, add value; they do so by increasing rewards, by becoming autotelic activities (which means that they are their own motivation) and by creating shared experiences that can’t really be shared with non-participants (communitas was a related jargon term). There was also the word inter-immersion, which might have had something to do with several activities or people working in concert, but I did not have time to write it down.

Harviainen continued on to the shared features of pretense play and rituals. There is social contract (one is supposed to act in certain way), magic circle by some other name, meaning that group/tribe creates a temporary space separate from normal life, which is evidently also known as liminality, and then there is re-signification which draws from the field of semiotics: Catholics eat the flesh of Jesus, boffers are proper swords, that one guy is an elf. Delimited space, which to my knowledge means magic circle, has an information barrier that intensifies the experience inside; there is a cognitive authority like a priest or game master who has much power within the circle and picks and chooses from different sources on what to take as the right and proper rule (different parts of Bible, different game manuals, say); there also was some playing around with how much people know before the ritual/game itself and how prolonging the phase of uncertainty can create intense experiences, but also how having all the information one might want and need provided within the magic circle can create powerful immersive experiences.

Harviainen had drawn a figure, but managed to make it quite unclear, or maybe I am simply unused to humanists drawing figures and trying to express themselves. It was some sort of feedback loop with one arrow going to both ways and simply saying “feedback loop” as explanation.

There was further material on the cognitive changes one can achieve by rituals or roleplaying. One can teach new skills and perspectives by them, but forcing a new worldview permanently would require continuous enforcement from society, as otherwise the effects are not anchored properly. As a striking example Harviainen used the larp Mellan himmel och hav (Swedish, translates as Between sky and sea) all participants of which became polygamous after playing, but reverted back to their monogamous ways some months (IIRC) after the game. Religions and cults are examples of how strong anchoring can cause persistent changes (also, why cults prohibit non-cult relations, I think). I am not quite sure how very closed groups of peers might interact with the anchoring and society as a whole. North Korea was given as an example of huge interaction larp. A question that dawned on me: Does this not apply to all societies? There was also talk about creating a powerful cult (or cult-like larp).

There were questions, some of which I covered above, and the following were interesting points raised by them: People taking different roles (among family, at work, with friends, …) can be seen as different interaction rituals. Larps and initiation rituals tend to have low frequency but high intesity, while tabletop gaming and going to church once a week have low intensity but high frequency. Is good tabletop game one which has high intesity, too?

The amount of notes I have from the lecture on Arabic and Islamic mythology is twice the previous and I won’t go on detail on it, at least here. Suffice to say that it was interesting material and could easily be used in any game sticking fairly close to or drawing heavily from real world mythology. A similar lecture or blog post on Christian mythology would be very interesting indeed. As it happens, I do know two roleplayers who also are students of theology. Any volunteers?

Third lecture I attended was the introduction to academic rpg theory. Ludosofy started with general study on games and play (all roleplaying is playing games, all gameplay is play), continued on how impossible it is to define roleplaying carefully (of which I could write an essay), but mentioned the concept of family resemblance, and on how definitions are used as a means of power play (the earliest studies on roleplaying are studies on D&D, not roleplaying as a whole); contrast naming something as art.

Ludosofy briefly explained the concept of diegesis, or that which is true within fiction, a term stolen from theory of literature, I think. Markus Montola has further divided the concept into subjective and objective diegesis, the latter of which roughly corresponds with shared imagined space as coined by Fang Langford.

Magic circle was explained and the issue of pervasive games was awaken, but not dealt with; pervasive games are ones in which the in-game and out-of-game have blurred, if any, limits. Several ways of looking at immersion Ludosofy also named and some of them received further attention; namely, Mike Pohjola‘s definition of roleplaying as immersion to outside consciousness, Fine’s egrossment, Gadamer’s Spiel, Callois’ mimicry, though also ilinx of which I should write something someday. Harviainen makes the following divisions: perikhoresis, separated identity, narrative identity (unrelated to GNS, for the record) and mixed identity. I might be able to write a bit more about them if someone asks, though I’d have to consult Ludosofy before so doing.

Ludosofy mentioned semiotics but did not really go into that much detail on them (I started my theory hobby on semiotics, so they are a familiar concept and I was not listening that carefully) and also mentioned the conflict between narratology and ludology, as roleplaying games can be analysed as story-making or as a game (which creepily mirrors some of the most harmful divisions in hobbyist rpg theory, such as roll/roleplay); there are also other approaches, such as looking at them as rituals.

As a nice end to the presentation there was a minor flame war and some interesting questions. “Eikös tämä ole aika nollatutkimusta?”, which does not translate properly, was heard. Yeah, if you are looking for concrete advise on improving your game, then academic rpg theory might not be the right place to start at.

BTW, Ludosofy, the primary difference between the new and old edition of Universalis is presentation. There might have been some rules tweaks, also.

I have some plans for the next con. I might run three games, one four-hour one and two three-hour games. On the other hand, I might hold a lecture on applied rpg theory, lest someone think it is only for high-brow academics, and only run two games of some length. The lecture option sounds more promising right now and would, I feel, be more useful for me in the long run. I can already run games well enough.

Other con experiences (and some related ones):

In Finnish:

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To do at Ropecon 09

23 July, 2009 at 7:08 pm (Ropecon)

Ropecon, the largest gaming convention in Finland, will be here at the end of this month. Here are my plans for the occasion.

First, I will running two planned games: One a scenario written by certain name of some fame in the Finnish rpg scene; the title of the scenario is “Jää hiljaisuus”, which is somewhat tricky to translate; “Jää” means both ice (the substance) and remains (a verb), while “hiljaisuus” translates as silence. My prediction about the scenario is that it will work reasonably well or crash and burn brilliantly, depending on the players. It is a scenario designed for quite particular style of play.

The another game I’ll be running is my standard episodic sword and sorcerish fantasy rpg. This time I will do it properly, as opposed to the semiproper game last year. It ought to work pretty well. Former players might get to play the same characters again.

I will try getting to play, too. Rumours tell that there won’t be scheduled 4e games, which tells a bit something about its popularity hereabouts, so trying it out is unlikely. James of Lamentations of the flame princess is likely to run a couple of games and I’ll try to catch one of them; pity the people who will have to endure my mediocre accent. I don’t have any other particular games in mind, but will try to find something interesting.

I will probably buy a book or two. Typically it has been one book per ‘con, but I fear I might be getting sloppy and buying more this time. Notably, products of interest include the Finnish pulp fantasy rpg Praedor (I’m getting a supplement, so I might as well get the game proper, too), mister Raggi’s adventure involving doom, frost and death (because I appreciate weird fiction with certain amount of malice included) and Solar system or Menneisyyden varjot, the Finnish translation of the Shadow of yesterday (since I’ve been playing it; I remember the rules by heart at this point, pretty much, but would like to support the authors or translators by giving them some money and the satisfaction of a sell).

There’s also a number of lectures/presentations that are of interest, though I fear I will be missing most of them. To name a few subjects: Russian mythology and folklore, assassinations, modern warfare and psychological effects thereof, spiritualism, academic lecture of rituals and roleplaying (by J. Tuomas Harviainen, a definite expert on the subject), lojban, ancient animals, adventure building (which is unlikely to be useful, but I’ll be there anyway), black magic, religious ritual sacrifices, Forgish rpg theory (Lumpley principle), self-publishing, Japanese mythology, Arabian mythology, geopolitics, designing a religion, introduction to academic rpg theory (which will probably be useless but I might be there anyway), adding mood to roleplaying games, basic game mastering advice, medieval combats and medieval larping, as well as educational roleplaying. There’s also a bunch of less interesting lectures.

There are workshops and more action-oriented presentations, also. The interesting ones include ren faire-esque fighting, folk music, proper medieval European swordsmanship, improvisation theatre for roleplayers, primitive weapon workshop and workshop for singing spells in the style of Kalevala.

With any luck I’ll be able to socialise a bit with some people whom I do not frequently meet. Particularly: Any whom I have met through blogging but not face-to-face. Foreigners are allowed to enter, too. There’s some program and a few games in English. Almost everyone can at least communicate in English. There’s no need to make reservations, though if you want to sleep in a hotel room, you would want to check the nearby hotel, of which I know nothing.

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Ropecon play report 3 – Frog-men, a giant snake and dark caves

18 August, 2008 at 10:19 pm (game mastering, persistent fantasy, Ropecon) (, , )

This game was played during Sunday. Thalin did not fit in, as there already were 6 players (note to self: next time, only five players; the sheer number of new characters is too much for me to handle with no preparation).

The updated characters and setting info can be found in the relevant page. (The list now has twelve unique players, including me. There have been a total of thirteen [again, including me] players, but one did not get on the list at all in this game. Or maybe used that name in play. I don’t remember.) The new characters are Darethos Freyar, Jackpo, Eerik, Thóren, Tobi, Vrael Derith (with a picture).

I made the mistake on not using any random elements. There were reasons for this, yet it was a mistake. Next time I’ll print a few set of random seeds and select one so as to provide inspiration and make character generation faster. As a consequence the characters look pretty much like a standard D&D adventuring party, which is not the aesthetic I am interested in.

Fiction

A bunch of random rogues and such, by request of Darethos Freyar, a knight of the church, protector of good, and (above all) destroyed of darkness, seeks to investigate certain ruins in the Swamp of immortals, due to rumours of treasure and evil cults. Thóren, a shaman of plainsmen, is heading for the same place in search of half an ancestral blade.

No proper roads go to the ruins. Darethos’s party, guided by a local hunter named Vrael Derith, meticulously move through the swamp, avoiding dangerous areas. Something human-shaped with a spear is once seen watching them, but nothing outright threatening.

Thóren the shaman is surrounded by a buzz of insects, frogs, birds and reptiles. He enters a trance (the process involves mushrooms)  and contacts a spirit of that particular part of the swamp, who manifests as a mound of moss and rock and mud, speaking of someone watching him and telling about the safe paths through the swamplands. Thóren also exchanges gifts with something; leaves some animal skins, gets a bronze knife with crude frog-like shape in the handle.

Freyar’s party notices the shaman, there is some communication by yelling, but the shaman does not join the paladin’s group. Sleep, then progress forward.

The defender of the faith and his merry band of adventurers are approaching one of the more woody parts of the swamp. Three arrows in rabid succession fly from the woods, hitting the ground a few meters from the adventurers. They wisely stop, someone tries negotiating while Jackpo the thief crawls and swims towards the woods.

Thóren notices a shape in a tree, wielding a bow, and Jackpo sneaking. Thóren also approaches the tree, as does Eerik (also a scoundrel). Darethos Freyar yells religiosly coloured threats and insults into the woods, getting an arrow to his foot as a reward. The one who was hiding in the tree is swiftly coming down. It is certainly a human or very close to one, but so covered in mud and dirt that further identification would require significant washing. As the creature comes down, arrows, knives and one club fly, seriously wounding and poisoning the archer. It is questioned to no effect, only indicating some interest in the knife held by Thóren, who attempts giving the knife to it, which is responded to by spitting at Thóren.

Jackpo slits the archer’s throat.

Some days after the ruins are reached. A fire burning there indicates human presence, which scouting confirms: A lone man, very short and heavily robed, is sitting besides the fire, completely oblivious of the killers in the shadow. A knife at the throat and some interrogation tell that the man is an alchemist willing to make a fair trade with his fares, assuming he is not slain outright. He is mistrusted and the intruders instead want to know if there is anything of value hereabouts, at which the robed dwarf (as in a human of short stature) points the way down with his abnormally long hand.

The bloodthirsty adventurers head down to what looks like a cellar. There’s some water on the floor and a dripping sound can be heard. It is dark. They are not likely to be eaten by a grue because they have improvised torches. A narrow tunnel leads forward. A giant snake, venom dripping from its teeth, lunges from the darkness ahead twice, to no great effect. It then retreats.

Next in the tunnel there is a larger space, something like a cross between a cellar and a natural cave. The snake is there, as are around 10 small frog-men, some armed with knives, a few even wearing ill-fitting helmets, and a blood-stained obsidian altar with two fires in both sides of it. A flurry of weapons hits the serpent as it attacks, slaying it. The frog-creatures dive into water-covered parts of the cave, still pitch-black except where fires or torches burn.

One of the frog-men jumps on the altar, visibly drops the bronze dagger it had and, with considerable difficulty, takes off the helmet. The player characters accept the evident gesture of peace. Frog-men, few first, but then increasing numbers, up to fifty, emerge from the water and croak and jump around, as if celebrating something. There is a broken shelf with random pieces of equipment on the far wall; Thóren finds half the blade he was looking for, and others pick a few odds and ends that seem useful. The frogs don’t care.

Jackpo and Darethos Freyar go back, as there is nothing further that would be of interest to them.

Of the others Vrael Derith discovers a tunnel through which at least some of the extra frogs came. He swims through it and finds himself in a cave of some sort. Making noise disturbs a remarkable amount of bats that live there, making them screech and twitter about. There is no light and no wall nearby. Vrael continues forward in the cave.

Others wait. Toben, the peddler who brought everyone together, continues waiting as Eerik and Thóren follow Vrael into the tunnel. The uncoordinated croaking and jumping of the frog-men is changing, becoming a dance or ritual of some sort.

In the actually dark cave, with water up to thighs or so, Vrael discovers a platform of some sort, around the fifth of a meter above water. Climbing on it he discovers that there are some round objects, around the size of fist, lying there. They are cold and hard, maybe stone. Dropping one makes noise (and fluttering bats) , but the item does not break. Vrael continues forward, again entering water. There is some beast ahead, as indicated by a “hrumph”, and growling as Vrael tries to move forward. He is thus gently guided back to the platform, after which the creature departs.

Eerik enters the dark cave and starts wandering towards sounds made by Vrael and the beast. Speaking to Vrael is futile due to the bats, easily excited by unexpected noise. Thóren likewise enters the cave, cue yelling and bats. The creature drops a carcass (of a beaver) near Vrael, who slowly starts backing off from the platform.

Tobi in the frog cave is the center of their ritual dance. He is offered insects, quickly denied, but he does accept the rat they give to him and cooks, then eats, it. The dance becomes more wild and fast. The frog that initiated the surrender offers a bronze knife, like the one Thóren has, to Tobi but pricks him before giving it to him. The frogs seem to be growing larger and their movements and shapes distorting. Tobi tries to yell, but only manages a croak. He has become one of the frog-men, their new king.

Vrael is in the water, Eerik gets on the platform, finds the fist-sized thing and breaks one. Bats. Vrael finds some sort of sandy beach and a heap of rotting organic material, mostly plants, lying on the beach. The beast attacks Eerik, who does not fare well. Thóren approaches. Long struggle ensues, Eerik taking several wounds, almost drowning and falling unconscious before Thóren gets there and slays the beast, cutting its throat with the half of a blade. The frogs made a few slashes and cuts at the hated beast that eats them when able to, and few of them were killed.

Vrael finds an egg in the heap of rot and promptly breaks it. He further discovers a way out of the cave, which everyone uses.

Observations

Pacing sucked. Start was too slow, the end was sudden. Two players had to leave early, which worked sufficiently well.

I have the following patterns: Eggs of monsters, arrows flying from nowhere as warnings, creatures that are not outright hostile unless provoked, which is usually easy. There are strange rituals and the sheer weirdness of everything tends to increase as time does, reaching a climax at some point.

I really enjoyed the fiction that was created, aside from the characters, who acted too much like a band of adventurers, or cold-blooded murderers, as they are also called. Individually they are good to mediocre, but in group, nah. Turning that one character into a froggish monster was the definite high point of the session, for me.

All the stats and so on are recorded in the persisten fantasy page, as far as I remember them correctly (two players wanted their character sheets, which I graciously allowed).

Assuming I don’t get too many good ideas before the next ‘con, it is likely that I will run two proper sessions of this game there. Less players, though.

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Ropecon play report – Unknown armies

12 August, 2008 at 5:24 pm (actual play, Ropecon) (, , )

First, a summary: I prepared (for some, very loose, definitions of “prepare”) two games, GM’d one of them (there were too few players in the other) and then also GM’d an ad-hoc game because it felt appropriate to do so. I played in one of game of UA (also known as Unknown Armies), of which a report shall follow, and also played one game of Bang! with Ari and some friends of his. No luck playing D&D 4th, unfortunately.

Most of the program was mediocre. The GM loot, in which game masters get to participate, works so that game masters are named in order of the number and length of games they GM’d, and when named get to pick one item from a table full of loot. My picks: Two containers of fancy gem tokens (useful for representing, say, artha in BW games) and D&D 4th PHB. I don’t have other core books, so it is unlikely that I’ll run it (though possible, given how much free monsters there is almost certainly floating around the ‘net).

So, all in all, game mastering gives you free access and the chance to get some stuff. I approve of this and will run more games at future Ropecons.

Actual report

Previous knowledge about UA: Modern horror game. Rules use a d100. Knives hurt. There’s madness meters, which mean that when in sanity-killing situations, character breaks more or becomes more psychopatic.

The GM was Olorin, the admin of majatalo.org, whom I properly met for first time during this con. The scenario played was from One shots. Other players included: Opusinsania and Vepa and few forumites from Finnish forums. Taustavoima and Tanan, possibly. One player about whom I remember little.

Hereafter there be spoilers

Characters: Me playing a not-too-smart robber who is overtly protective of his dear brother. Finnish forumite playing the aforementioned brother, who is pretty smart. Another forum person playing German doctor Mendele Mensch (or something to that effect) with something of a obsessive-compulsive nature. Opusinsania is playing the leader of the small group and is something of a cowboy. Vepa plays a hyperactive boy, the son of the final character called Rebecca Borgstrom (which, I suppose, is funny).

A bunch of characters in a trailer park far from everywhere. It seems that radio and TV are not working as they used to be. After plenty of talky bits, the two robbers, the cowboy and the kid go to investigate and shop a bit in the only nearby place where such can be done, which is a semi-deserted settlement with a radio station and a general store. The fact that play now happens in two groups means that two players are basically relegated to an audience role, which is, in general, not a good thing.

Everyone’s dead in that place, as becomes clear after some mucking around. The cowboy and my char’s brother go investigating. My char is obsessed with his bro’s safety and goes after them; there is a loud crash and the boy comes running in panic (a previous loud crash made the car nonfunctional, this one makes a hole in the roof.) Blather about black man with an axe follows. Somewhat panicked reactions, further investigation, flimsy excuses to not call the cops, and trying to get a car going follow. End result being that my char gets hit with an axe and the black-clad latino axe murderer shot thrice, once in the head at practically no distance. Also: Vepa is a good character actor.

During that the doctor and Ms. Borgstrom have started driving to where the others are with the only working car (others don’t start), which eats humongous quantities of fuel (a railroading measure to keep us from not simply driving away). A happy reunion. My char is professionally fixed by the German doctor, as well as somewhat drugged. The axe murderer is found to have disappeared, because it was deemed useful for the cowboy to have a gun and another of my char’s weapons had dropped near where the evil one had died and I told them to go get that gun (the effect of discovering that the murderer is gone was intentional). There is debate about what to do next. Railroading by the way of “you feel really bad leaving your dog there alone to die” pointed towards ms. Borgstrom and the kid leads everyone back to the trailer park, also known as home.

Some calm moments later there is a dead dog and everyone rapidly entering the car, driving towards the second nearby place, a farm (or something similar) of random old man. The old man is dead. Desperate grab for gas leads to climatic battle (Olorin: “You’ll have to roll 1 or 11 to hit.” Opusinsania rolls eleven. There is much rejoicing.) in which the evil one is (again) slain.

The actual content of the play was interactions of the characters. All that plot stuff was there mostly as fuel for the interaction. The railroading was somewhat visible and Olorin said he did it. The module also recommends killing player characters if they are ever alone, which did not happen. It would not have been very compatible with 4-hour con gaming slot.

The rules of UA where largely not used or alternatively were irrelevant most of the time. The combats felt slow. Personally, I would have used another, simpler, set of rules for this scenario.

All in all, it was good enough a game that I would play in something similar, given the choice. This is not true of all games I have played.

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Ropecon

7 August, 2008 at 12:13 pm (Ropecon)

Tomorrow I will go to Ropecon. I will run two games, one about a certain called Nokkonen, one about a bunch of people looting a pyramid and maybe stabbing each other. Or shooting, more likely.

The guests of honour are not of particular interest; there’s some Scandinavian larp person, some d20 person and Greg Stolze, who is a game designer. There’s some talk about the future of roleplaying, using nontraditional economical models, and of social important of roleplaying. They may be worth attending.

Guy Windsor will hold Realities of Steel and that other thing on medieval fighting. They are guaranteed to be at least amusing.

There’s two presentations on probability; one for powergamers, the other for game designers. I doubt they have much to teach to me. Given something to do, I won’t attend them.

I will try to play in as many intersting games as possible. Approximately: Three. If feasible, one of these will be a game of D&D 4th.

I will not participate in the rpg.net meetup due to two reasons: First, I am too much of a wallflower to really enjoy it. Second, I have not actually been participating in rpg.net for a long while.

Other than that, randomly talking with people I know.

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